Westquay Watermark is a major public square and leisure development in Southampton, completed in Summer 2017. Located in front of the medieval town defenses, the development is defined by a soaring cantilevered volume – enveloped in a skin of curving stainless steel pipes – that projects out over a new public square and Esplanade linking the old seafront with the historic city centre. The new landscaped space, cinema, restaurants, cafés and bowling alley will bring people and activity back to the site that has historically been the bustling West Quay seafront. Old Southampton had many routes from the town down to the sea, but in the last 60 years, these connections to the lower level had gradually been lost, and the sea has been pushed away by subsequent landfills. Watermark reinstates a sloping route between the city centre and the historic shoreline, creating new upper and lower promenade for pedestrians to stroll along, as well as a series of stairs and passages.
The curvilinear building cantilevers up to 26 metres out over the public realm to create sheltered spaces below and protect the last open views from the town wall to the sea. The ‘floating’ volume containing the cinema hovers over a two-storey glazed body of restaurants and a more solid plinth. This angled exterior is clad in 14,000 metres of steel pipes; each pipe individually and uniquely curved by sophisticated computer-controlled machinery. The differential pipe spacing accentuates the cinema’s gently shifting contours, and brings back a memory of the large coils of transatlantic underwater sea cables that were once manufactured on this site between 1913 and 1960 in the vast Pirelli General Factory here.
The public realm has a new plaza at its heart, located at the foot of the town wall. Taking inspiration from the tidal mudflats that characterised the beach outside the city walls, Western Esplanade and the new square are structured with intricate stone patterns that allow for the temporary reappearance of the tide that once washed across these shores. A series of tapering steps lead down from the sloping promenade into the plaza to create a natural auditorium for different daily uses. Lined with restaurants that open up onto the square, this space has become a scene of lively activity, with outdoor seating and space for concerts, temporary ice rinks and parts of the Boatshow scheduled to appear here. Lighting has been installed along Western Esplanade to celebrate the medieval town walls, and water fountains and a mirror pool will act as centrepieces for the square.
A new 42-metre-long bridge connects Westquay Watermark to an existing multi-storey car park, held up by a lightweight structural lattice, with glass walls enclosing the bridge on all sides but offering views out to the coast.
Friedrich Ludewig, Director, ACME, said: “This part of Southampton was the historic place where the city met the sea, alive and bustling with activity, first populated by fisherman and wine smugglers, later by Jane Austen and royalty looking for leisurely entertainment in summer. We have worked hard with Hammerson and Southampton City Council to create a new destination in the city that draws people back to Western Esplanade and the old town walls. Ramps rather then steps are there to create a seamless transition between levels, canopies provide protection from sun and rain, and the wide variety of restaurant and leisure should ensure that Southampton becomes a great leisure and nighttime destination again.
Robin Dobson, Retail Development Director at Hammerson, added “It is fantastic to see this project complete and become a vibrant hub for Southampton and its local community. Westquay Watermark marks the second significant regeneration project we have worked on with ACME on following the launch of Victoria Gate in October, and true to form ACME has succeeded in creating a stunning new destination for the city that draws on the its rich heritage to reconnect a previously lost area.”